Wits and students make peace

WITS University is regarded as the premier institution of higher learning in South Africa and many wish to boast it is their alumni.

But mayhem broke out this week when students felt that the university was practising elitist exclusionary measures by raising fees. They say high tuition and accommodation fees make it impossible for poor students to attend the university.

Students disrupted lectures and blocked traffic to force the university to address their demands. Wits officials retaliated by obtaining a court interdict to prevent disruptions.

The university and students declared a truce yesterday. But the tuition fee hike will remain, though accommodation fees might be reduced, while other complaints will be considered. First-year students will receive more financial aid, but this means fewer students will have access to financial aid.

The University Council will meet in two weeks and students will be have five seats at the meeting to set out their complaints.

"Fees are decided by the finance committee. It is a process where all stakeholders are consulted widely. Students are represented in all structures, that is why the protests were so surprising because they were involved in the process," Wits spokesperson Shirona Patel said.

A cursory look at fees between Wits and the University of Johannesburg shows a wide disparity. A BA degree at UJ costs between R11000 and R18900. Registration fee is R400. Wits fees are from R20370 to R26900 for the same degree. Registration fee is R6000.

Students Against Financial Exclusion and the Progressive Youth Alliance say Wits must cancel the increases of 9 to 15percent on tuition fee and 11,5percent on accommodation fee.